For Back to School: Let Kids Do it for Themselves

Teaching Kids Independence for a Successful School Year

by Keriann Wilmot

The beginning of the school year is always a big transition as children and parents adjust to the timing of their new daily routines and the demands of more challenging academic work.  My work as a pediatric occupational therapist has allowed me to teach hundreds of children the skills of dressing themselves, which includes mastering fasteners like buttons or snaps and completing the art of tying their shoelaces. As a parent myself, I know from experience, as my own son exhibits independence with basic life skills the more time, energy and patience I seem to have to help him with those challenging activities he can’t complete on his own.White teeth Rock

Before the homework really piles on, these are some of my favorite CWIST challenges that will help motivate and encourage your children to demonstrate an improvement in their self-help skills. Not only will learning how to do these simple tasks have a positive impact on their self-esteem, but they can hopefully allow everyone to get out of the house on-time with as little morning drama as possible! 

1. There’s My Outfit!

This CWIST challenge will teach your child how to appropriately choose an outfit for the following day, by creating a routine that encourages them to check the weather forecast, identify the proper clothing and place it in a consistent place in the home every night before school. This simple routine change, if followed consistently, can alleviate a lot of the stress in the morning that comes with coordinating the perfect outfit, finding those comfy clothes that feel “just right,” and arguments over why wearing a tanktop isn’t a good choice given the impeding snowstorm. 

2. One, Two, Tie My Shoe!

This particular CWIST challenge includes a video demonstration, as well as color-coded picture cues of how to tie shoelaces. With the invention of Velcro and more comfortable slip-on dress shoes, it seems that fewer children have actually learned how to tie their own shoelaces. No doubt, in my opinion, shoe tying is one of the most complicated fine motor tasks a child will ever learn to coordinate. It’s so rewarding to help motivate children to learn this milestone and believe me, your child’s teachers will thank you for it!

3. White Teeth Rock

While as a parent I still might do a spot check after toothbrushing, during this CWIST children learn about the importance of consistently brushing their teeth, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash for two minutes, twice a day.

4. More Peas, Please!

As schedules become more hectic and chaotic, it’s often much easier to hit the drive-thru than to consistently make healthy food choices. However, the sooner that children develop more awareness of the types of food that fuel their body in a positive way, they may realize that they have more energy and attention for their sports teams and hoework.

About the Author

Keri Ann WilmotKeriann Wilmot, a passionate toy enthusiast, began her career as a pediatric occupational therapist 15 years ago. She could have never predicted the profound impact that toys and the role of play would have in helping children achieve developmental milestones in such fun, natural ways. Several years ago, in an effort to help all parents find toys that their children would enjoy playing with, Keri began incorporating toy recommendations and other helpful play hints into her personal website. Many people know her as the “ToyQueen!” Keri has also been providing toy related to content as the Toys Expert at   since July 2011.


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Easy Ways to Work with Your Child’s Teacher

We all want our children to be successful in school.  Education is an extraordinary gift that we can give to our children.  According to the National Education Association, research shows that parents who are involved in school and have good communication with teachers tend to have children who are more successful.  But this is still a relatively new concept.  Parents these days are generally much more involved in their children’s education, and much more willing to work alongside teachers.

Teacher helping students in school classroom. Horizontally framed shot.

Here are few things to keep in mind when you are building a relationship with your child’s teacher.

  • Meet the teacher.

  1. If your school has a “Back to School Night” or “Meet the Teacher Night,” it might be good to step out of the crowd of parents.  Introduce yourself to the teacher, and let her know that you are looking forward to the coming year.  Show her that your family supports her and that you plan to be involved in your child’s school year.

  2. Remember, not all parents are going to be involved, and some might be difficult to get along with.  Your child’s teacher will need to know that there are parents in the class that are on her side.

  3. Volunteer as a Room Parent who can help coordinate fun activities for kids.

  • Be a partner, not an adversary.

  1. This may seem fairly obvious, but it can be difficult when you are faced with your teacher one on one.  Parents often become defensive about their child’s behavior or grades, but the teacher wants your child to succeed, too.

  2. Rather than jumping on the defensive, thank your teacher for her input, and ask how the two of you can work together for the betterment of your child.
  • Be proactive but respectful.

  1. There may be times during the school year that you feel the need to talk to the teacher about your child’s grades, behavior, or homework assignments.  If you already have a relationship there, it may go more smoothly.

  2. Be considerate of your teacher’s time and schedule.  Remember, your child is not the only student in the classroom.

  3. Try to avoid grabbing the teacher before or after class for a quick talk about your child.  She may be distracted if the day is about to start or if it has just ended.  Ask her for a convenient time to get together.  She will feel respected, and much more likely to take the time to talk.

Try not to lose sight of the fact that you and your child’s teacher have the same goal: success for the students.  These simple tips can help you build a strong relationship with the teacher, which will likely translate into success for your child.

For MORE Back to School Tips:  Check out the School Routine Survival Kit on to help your child get back into the school groove the easy way!

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School Routines: Back to School & Study Skills Activities

It’s back to school time again! School is starting and your kids could probably use a little help establishing a routine again. No matter which grade your young one is starting, it’s important to create good routines from the start of the school year. CWIST has tons of fun things to do for back to school preparation and to get your daily routine back in swing. These fun homework and study skills activities are simple and helpful. Each one is aimed at helping your child stay organized and on task this year. Check out some of our favorite fun activity challenges  for helping kids improve their study skills and get ready for school.

Essential Challenges for Back to School Living

Essential Challenges for Back to School Living

  • Ack! I’ve Got Homework!- Don’t let your child fret over all of his new homework assignments the first month of school. Instead, set him up for success with this great CWIST. This activity offers fun homework help for kids who need some motivation after school. Your child will start by choosing the perfect place to do homework. Next, the gameplan is to unpack, snack, track and attack. This CWIST will help your child set a homework routine for the entire first month of school.
  • My Reading Log- This is just one of the many fun reading games to help with homework on CWIST. This activity offers fun homework help for kids by offering an example of a reading log. A reading log is simply a list created to help your child keep track of the books she read throughout the school year. This CWIST will encourage your child to slowly work through her favorite books. At the end, you can reward your child by granting a WISH. See how much she can grow as a reader just by keeping a log of her reading goals.
  • Maintaining an Organized Binder- An important part of being a good student is keeping an organized binder. This CWIST is designed to teach your child how to independently organize his binder. Keeping a clean binder will lend itself to being a better prepared student overall. This CWIST will help your child improve his study skills simply by cutting down on the time it takes him to figure out what he has to do for homework each day. His new binder will have everything organized and in its place for when he opens it after school.

These fun CWIST challenges will help your child improve homework and study skills. By taking a few steps now, your child will be set up for success when it comes time to plow through homework after school. The sooner he gets done with studying and homework, the sooner he can get back to playing outside and burning off some energy. It’s a win all around! Visit and look for the School Routines Survival Kit to find more fun things to help your child get back into the school groove.

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Fun with Laundry and Other Help Around the House (Really!)

Parents love CWIST because they know it’s the place to go to make helping around the house fun with challenges that don’t seem like chores. You can search for helpful ideas about how to turn mundane chores into educational opportunities for the family to enjoy. Let’s face it, you’ve got a busy workload and could use the help with chores around the house. Your kids might not take much personal satisfaction in doing dishes or vacuuming the carpet. These fun activities for kids will help you, the parent, by teaching your child how to take over the laundry duties. Make learning fun with chores and introduce your child to laundry duty this summer.

Beautiful Young Girl Doing Spring Cleaning Chores with Mop and B

Your child is going to work up a sweat with the summer activities for kids on CWIST. Sweaty kids will lead to stinky clothes. Don’t worry. The Magical Drawer: Time to Learn Laundry will teach your child how to share some of the laundry duties. He won’t have to worry about whether his baseball pants or favorite shirt will be available when he needs them. This fun chores activity will help your child become more independent and take some of the load off your shoulders.

  • Laundry Awareness and Education is another fun chores activity for your child to learn about laundry. The difference between this activity and the previous CWIST is that this activity is intended for a child who is already curious about how to help more around the house. This CWIST takes your child’s laundry involvement to the next level. Assign this CWIST to your older child who is naturally inclined to be your little helper. Consider taking advantage of WISHES to reward your child for her hard work.
  • Change the way your child looks at laundry with the Science Fair: Homemade vs. Brand Name Laundry Detergent. Cool science experiments can make your child experience everyday life in a fresh new way. This CWIST challenges your child to evaluate how much your family spends each year on laundry detergent. Homemade detergent is less expensive than store brand detergent. This CWIST helps your child prove scientifically which type of detergent works better. Your child will have hours of fun with this science experiment. In the end, you’ll benefit with some cost-effective, homemade laundry detergent. Make sure to supervise your child during the process.

These CWISTs blend the best of both worlds: hours of fun for your child and some much needed help for you around the house. Visit for more ideas on how to make learning fun with chores this summer. Help is just a click away!

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Fun Activities to Teach Children about Manners

Summertime means more family time together while kids are out of school. The extra time together can easily turn into educational opportunities to enjoy with everyone. Good manners isn’t a school subject and can often be neglected. Make the most of your time together this summer with fun activities to teach children about manners on CWIST.

boy with bad manners

  • At some point, kids will have to learn that there is a certain pattern to setting the table. Knowing How to Set the Table Can Go a LONG WAY! is a fun activity for kids at the table. This CWIST will help teach your child the basics of how to set the table. You could just tell your child how to do this important life skill, or you can utilize one of the fun behavior activities for kids on CWIST! Your child will love watching the kid’s videos for the best way to teach how to set the table too. Practice makes perfect.
  • The cornerstone of polite manners is learning how to keep your mouth closed while chewing. Luckily, CWIST has a couple of fun behavior activities for kids who need to learn this valuable lesson. Close Your Mouth, Please! and Eat with Your Mouth Closed are both great learning tools to help you out. The former activity uses a long-term approach to slowly train your child using various shorter goals and activities. The latter includes kid’s videos for teaching your child to keep his mouth closed while chewing. Both videos are equally effective and provide great educational activities with the family at the table.
  • There are also some fun activities to teach children basic manners through acts of kindness. Kindness through Magic! is one of these activities. Your child will enjoy starting this CWIST with a fun craft activity for kids. She will build a magic wand to help her as she spreads kindness throughout the neighborhood. By the end of this CWIST, she will learn about the importance of random acts of kindness and enjoy watching kindness spread across the community.

Of course, CWIST is no replacement for valuable life lessons in manners from parents. However, you can certainly use these fun behavior activities for kids to strengthen and practice good manners this summer. Make the most of your extra time together as you teach your child lessons that will last a lifetime! Search for all of the great CWISTs about manners today!

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Pass the Time with Free Games for Kids this Summer

Summer is in full force. Vacations have come and gone and your budget for fun may have already been spent. What do you do with energetic kids for the rest of the summer? Don’t worry. CWIST can help pass the time with free games for kids this summer. CWIST has tons of cool games for kids of all ages to enjoy on slow summer days. Try the following CWISTs when your kids are looking for free games to play this summer:

math games and baseball summer fun

  • Check out some of the free math games for boys and girls on CWIST. Summer is the perfect time for laidback card games. Grab some cards and deal out a game of Math War!. All you’ll need is a deck of cards. Your child will even get some fun lessons on how to shuffle. This CWIST is so fun that your children won’t even realize they’re practicing math!
  • Summertime means baseball season is in full swing. Make learning fun with sports games like Monday Morning Math: Batting Averages and Decimal Place Values CWIST. This activity will reinforce what your child has already learned about decimal places, while teaching her a little history lesson about her favorite sport. Use statistics from the greatest hitters of all time to practice decimal places. This is just one of the many free games for kids to enjoy with their baseball-loving parents, too.


  • Do you have a younger child who gets bored sometimes and needs something to do? Well we’ve got you covered. CWIST has the best arts and crafts for kids who love to keep busy while using their hands. Create Your Own Insulated Bottle Cover will give your child the satisfaction of creating something for herself. Also, this CWIST will remind your child of the importance of staying hydrated in the summer sun. Why buy an expensive thermal water bottle when your child can make her own out of common household items?
  • Okay, this CWIST isn’t technically free, but it won’t cost much more than the price of postage. Literally. Package That Pringle! challenges your child to create a package that will protect a single Pringles potato chip. Once a package is built, it’s time to put it in the mail and see if it survives a trip with your postal worker. Your child will get to challenge a friend to do the same and see who wins. This CWIST sets rules for what kind of materials can be used in the competition. CWIST Twist: If you don’t want to send the chip through the mail, then a simple twist of the rules can still deliver a fun and challenging result. Let your child drop the chip package from a tall height like the top of the stairs. Your child will have just as much fun seeing if the chip can survive such great heights! Make sure to supervise your child for safety depending on the location of the chip package launch.

Your child can pass the time by practicing math or safeguarding a potato chip. Either way, CWIST has cool games for kids to enjoy this summer. The best part is that they’re free for you! Find more free activities on

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Summer Educational Opportunities for Your Travels

Summertime is reminiscent of road trips and plane rides around the country. Time with family is great, but even the shortest trip can have children squirming and looking for something fun to do. Have no fear. CWIST is here with some great summer educational opportunities for your travels. These summertime CWISTs are a blast! They also provide great educational games for kids to learn in the car rather than zone out with a DVD. You don’t have to scramble to find good games for kids to play in the car anymore. Before you hit the road, enjoy or print out these great CWIST activities.happy asian family sitting in the car


  • Travel Bug will truly help your child get the most out of a trip overseas this summer. If you’re planning a trip to another country, then get started today with this CWIST. Pick out a novel, poetry, songs or folk tales about the country you’ll be visiting this summer beforehand. During the trip, your child will get to report to you about what she learned from what she listened to or read. In addition to sparking great family discussions about the trip, this CWIST encourages your child to keep a journal while traveling. Your child will remember her trip for a long time when she travels with a CWIST activity.
  • Who Wants to Travel Across the Country? is the perfect CWIST for children who love to plan ahead. This CWIST takes mundane travel plans and turns them into educational games for kids. Your child will get to practice his organizational skills, planning skills, and even learn about gas prices. You pick the destination and then let your child do the research to coordinate everything from where you’ll eat along the way, to where you’ll sleep on your road trip this summer.
  • Take advantage of free games for kids on CWIST for those long hours in the car without much to do. Are We There Yet? will teach your child that there was life before DVD players on road trips. He’ll get to spend time picking your brain and even making up his own games to play on the road. The possibilities are endless! This CWIST will get your child’s creative juices flowing.
  • Make Your Own Eye Spy Game is a great way to keep things civil in the backseat of the car. Who knew it could be so easy to keep everybody happy on a road trip with simple and fun crafts for kids? Have your crafty child do this CWIST before you hit the road. This activity is also great for your child while you’re shopping or if you just need a break.

Your road trips will never look the same again when you travel with CWIST. Search for more great summertime activities on

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Read Your Way Through Summer!

Some of our children can easily get lost in a book, even on a sunny summer day. But for others, we must wait for a rainstorm to get them inside. We can all agree that summer reading is one of the best ways to keep our children learning and even working on study skills during the summer. It can be difficult to keep them motivated to read, so here is a CWIST that just may do the trick!

Fizz, Boom, Read is a program that many libraries across the country are promoting during the summer to get children reading. Even if your local branch is not involved, you can get your household on board.

girl reading book

  • First, your child can choose some books to read this summer. You can start with just one, or have him set a goal for how many books he can read before school starts back.
  • Take a trip to the library where your child can ask the librarian for some suggestions. Before going to the library, talk about the types of books he would like to read based on his current interests and reading level. To kickstart the search, check out this great list of books for children.
  • Next step: Read, read, read!  Either take those rainy days and make them reading days, or set aside a certain amount of time each day for your child to come inside and read. Finding the right books can be all the motivation they need.
  • Once the first book is completed, the fun begins. Here are five things that your child can do to share what they read.

Make a meal that was in the story

  1. Go for a walk with a parent or friend and discuss the book
  2. Compare the story’s hero to a friend or relative
  3. Draw a new cover for the book
  4. Find five things in your house that are in the story
  • With each book your child reads, there are new activities from this CWIST.

Whether your children love arts and crafts, cooking, or writing, they can find the perfect book and the motivating activity to read all summer long!


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Using Magic for Fun Math and Science Projects this Summer

Summertime is here and there’s something magical in the air. Maybe it’s the energy from all of the kids being out of school. Maybe it’s excitement about fun summer vacations. Whatever it is, CWIST has funneled the magic into fun math and science projects for the summer. These fun math and science projects for summer are filled with magic to keep your child’s skills sharp!

  • Magic Triangles  is one of the many fun math activities for kids on CWIST. This activity challenges your CWISTER to find as many solutions as possible while learning about equilateral triangles. You child will have a blast improving his math skills and then challenging a friend to beat the math puzzle too. The child who can find the most solutions to the magical puzzle is the winner!



  • Did you know that magic and science have a lot in common? Secret Messages: Magic or Science? is a way to make learning fun for kids who are equally amazed by magic and science. Your little magician will have the opportunity to amaze her friends with some magic inspired by chemistry. All it takes is some grape juice, paper, a paintbrush, water, vinegar and baking soda. These common household ingredients will result in an exciting secret message reveal.
  • Do you know what a Mobius Strip is? It is a magical math enigma with only one side and one boundary. This is one of those fun activities for kids that you’ll be learning from as well. Watch your child perform mathematical magic with this amazing CWIST. This fun summer activity only requires paper, tape, a ruler, a pencil and scissors to get the magic show started. You won’t believe your eyes!
  • Do you have a child with a whimsical spirit? If so, encourage her to keep her science skills sharp as she dives into The Secret World of Fairies. Rarely can you find fun activities for kids that combines magic and science. Your child will learn all about fairies and then build her own fairy world in the backyard. She’ll get to step into the magical world of fairies while learning about animals and nature. This activity will let your your child’s imagination run wild and keep her busy for hours in a world of magic, science, and fairies.

Your child will have a great time with these fun math and science projects and summer activities for kids on CWIST. Visit to search for all kinds of other fun summer activities for kids too. The fun and learning never stops with CWIST.

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Make Chores Fun!

Summer can be a great time to accomplish lots of extra housekeeping chores. Yardwork, cleaning out closets, and redecorating are just a few of larger household chores your family may have this summer.  Hopefully, your children already have some age appropriate chores that they are expected to do around the house. Summertime is great time for them to learn even more about the things parents do to keep a household up and running!


In addition to their regular chores, help them come up with some activities they can help with, or even do independently, to help out around the house this summer. For even more incentive, come up with some family friendly rewards when it’s all over.

Chore Jar:

  • Sit down as a family and come up with some creative chores. Your children may even find some fun things to do around the house like helping cook meals or planting new flowers in the yard.
  • Next, find one large empty jar. Let your children get going with some arts and crafts and decorate the jar. Find stickers, markers, or ribbon and let them make it their own!
  • Last, use some colorful scraps of paper to write down each new chore. Fold them up neatly and put them in the jar.
  • Choose one day a week that they take out a scrap of paper. That day will be their new creative chore day!
  • Once the jar is empty, reward your whole family for a job well done!

Chores can be opportunities to combine learning and fun. Find more creative ways to get your children motivated to do their chores around the house at CWIST.


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